Monday, July 14, 2014

Review: How My Summer Went Up in Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

Title: How My Summer Went Up in Flames
Author: Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
Publisher: SimonPulse
Release date: May 7th 2013
Pages: 307
Genre: Young Adult contemporary romance
Source: Bought
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Rosie’s always been impulsive. She didn’t intend to set her cheating ex-boyfriend’s car on fire. And she never thought her attempts to make amends could be considered stalking. So when she’s served with a temporary restraining order on the first day of summer vacation, she’s heartbroken—and furious.
To put distance between Rosie and her ex, Rosie’s parents send her on a cross-country road trip with responsible, reliable neighbor Matty and his two friends. Forget freedom of the road, Rosie wants to hitchhike home and win back her ex. But her determination starts to dwindle with each passing mile. Because Rosie’s spark of anger? It may have just ignited a romance with someone new…
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I think whether or not you will like How My Summer Went Up in Flames depends a lot on you opinion of our main character Rosie. I've read reviews by people who love her and by people who couldn't stand Rosie because of her impulsiveness and her lack of understanding of how serious her situation is. I didn't really mind her disregard for consequences and her irrational ways all that much - she's relatably flawed, and I love having a different type of contemporary YA narrator for once.

But there are still some things that bothered me about Rosie, most importantly her expressions on issues of gender. There's some serious slut-shaming going on in Rosie's opinions and depictions of her breakup with Joey. She talks about sex as if it's something that she would never do, and condemns Joey's new girlfriend - and her friend Avery - for having done it, which is not okay. Her views of gender roles bothered me so much - she keeps making offensive comments about femininity, and lets her whole life revolve around guys, having no ambitions for herself. (She liked saying "Joey's wife" when people would ask her what she wants to be later on.) This is never really addressed as a problem, which frustrated me throughout the novel. The same goes for issue's of class - from the way Rosie, her family, and the guys' families treat money, they all have to have quite a lot of it, and that's never really mentioned in the novel. Instead, they're the ones who are "normal," in comparison to their ultra-rich friend Avery, which results in scenes like Rosie being surprised they are taking a limousine to the club and commenting that her family only uses limousines on prom or to get to the airport. The never-addressed privilege that is so obvious in scenes like those perpetuates really problematic depictions of class and privilege, and it bothered me throughout Rosie's story.

Since we're already on the topic of problematic depictions of privilege and oppression, let's talk about the whitewashing of this cover. Rosie's mother is from Ecuador and her father is Italian, so she is described to have a dark complexion. She also refers to herself as curvy throughout the novel. So of course the cover model had to be... a skinny white girl. Just... ugh. So many problems.

Despite all these issues that my feminist/social-activist self had with the novel, there are still some parts of the story that I really enjoyed. I always love road trips, and this one is no exception - I loved reading about all their stops and adventures. Rosie's interactions with the guys are entertaining too, and I especially loved Matty. I'm not a huge fan of the romance because I don't think it's necessary for the story, but as far as unnecessary, predictable romance goes, this one is at least kind of cute.

How My Summer Went Up in Flames was an okay read for me. It's a quick, entertaining book, and there are plenty of things I enjoyed about it. Looking deeper, though, there are issues that I couldn't ignore, meaning I couldn't absolutely love this book. How My Summer Went Up in Flames is a cute, fun summer read, but nothing more.


  1. I haven't read this book, and I think I'll skip it based on the antiquated gender views. I also hate when they make all models be skinny white girls. Great review!

    Amber @ Fall Into Books


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